Fountains in New York City’s Parks

New York City is a city of water, and for centuries, some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors have represented our heritage with astonishing fountains. Here are just a few of our favorite fountains found in our parks; from ornate works that have stood for centuries to modern marvels of artistry and engineering.

Looking for more? Visit our Fountains page for a complete list of public works on City parkland.

Bethesda Fountain

Central Park, Manhattan

Photo by Daniel Avila

The Bethesda Fountain is one of the largest fountains in New York City and Central Park’s most iconic fountain. Many visitors head north from The Mall to see the fountain at Bethesda Terrace—Olmsted and Vaux’s vision of a reception area for park. The fountain, dedicated in 1873, commemorates the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct, New York City’s first water supply system which brought fresh water following the city’s bout with cholera.

The fountain, which includes a 26-foot-tall Angel of Waters statue atop it, is a reference to the Gospel of St John (Chapter 5, verses 2-4) that describes an angel who gave healing powers to a pool called Bethesda. The lily in the angel’s left hand symbolizes the water’s purity, and the four figures below represent Peace, Health, Purity, and Temperance. The statue is the only statue commissioned for Central Park; it was created by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a public art commission in New York City. Over the years, Bethesda Fountain has been the setting for many popular works, from E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime to Tony Kushner’s play and film Angels in America, as well as many modern movies and television shows set in New York City. More information about the Bethesda Fountain

City Hall Park Fountain (The Mould Fountain)

City Hall Park, Manhattan

Photo by Daniel Avila

On the Fourth of July, 1842, New York City celebrated the opening of the Croton Aqueduct with a fountain display in City Hall Park. It was built using water pumped in from the aqueduct and had a center jet that could shoot water as high as 50 feet in the air.  In 1871, the Croton Fountain was replaced by the park’s current fountain, the Mould Fountain, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould (who also co-designed the Bethesda Fountain).

Although it may look as though the fountain has been in City Hall Park for centuries, it actually spent many years in Crotona Park in the Bronx, replaced first by the controversial Frederick MacMonnies Civic Virtue in 1922, and then by the Delacorte Fountain in 1972. When the park underwent a $34.6 million renovation in 1999, the Mould Fountain was returned to the park and the Delacorte Fountain moved to Tremont Park in the Bronx. More information about City Hall Fountain

Washington Square Park Fountain

Washington Square Park, Manhattan

Photo by Daniel Avila

Many visitors and New Yorkers hang out around this well-known fountain at the heart of the park. The park’s original fountain was replaced by a fountain from a south entrance in Central Park, around the mid-1870s. It was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, who also designed the City Hall Park Fountain and co-designed the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. In 2009, the fountain was conserved and moved ten feet to align with the majestic Washington Square Arch. More information about Washington Square Park

Unisphere and Fountain

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens

Photo by Daniel Avila

The Unisphere, Queens’ most iconic symbol, was commissioned for the 1964-65 World’s Fair—the second World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.  It was the center theme of the fair’s space age and “Peace through Understanding” themes. The globe was designed by Gilmore D. Clarke who, with his partner Michael Rapuano, was responsible for the design of Riverside, Battery, Bryant, Marine, and Astoria Parks, as well as Orchard Beach and the site plan for the 1939-40 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Plans to have the Unisphere rotate for the Fair were shelved as too costly, and lights and fountain water jets were used instead to create an illusion of movement. The globe is 140 feet tall with a 120-foot wide diameter, and weighs 350 tons. More information about the Unisphere

Bailey Fountain

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance

It’s not unusual to see wedding parties pose for photos here at this fountain on the outskirts of Prospect Park. Visitors of all ages gather around the magnificent fountain to see the water jet over the bronze male and female figures, representing Wisdom and Felicity. The two figures are surrounded by Neptune (the Roman god of the sea), his attendant Triton, and a boy holding a cornucopia. The fountain is named for Brooklyn-based philanthropist Frank Bailey (1865-1953) and his wife. Frank Bailey was the chairman of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a founder and trustee of the Museum of the City of New York, and a trustee of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. More information about the Bailey Fountain

Neptune Fountain

Snug Harbor, Staten Island

Photo courtesy of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

At Snug Harbor, Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, strides atop a scaly sea monster with his spear poised to strike. The 10-foot tall fountain is a 1994 replica of the original work, which was installed in the park in 1893. The replica was recast by the Modern Art Foundry in Queens using historic photographs and wax casts from the original zinc monument. How did the replica arrive in Staten Island? By the Staten Island Ferry, of course!  More information about Neptune Fountain

Heinrich Heine Fountain aka the Lorelei Fountain

Joyce Kilmer Park, Bronx

Photo by Jonathan Kuhn

This beautiful fountain in the Bronx's Joyce Kilmer Park honors German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), author of Die Lorelei—about a siren who lured sailors to their deaths on the Rhine. The sculptural group, carved out of white Tyrolean marble, depicts the Lorelei (siren) seated on a rock in the Rhine River among mermaids, dolphins, and seashells. The fountain was originally made for Heine’s home city Dusseldorf in 1888 but after the city declined the monument on aesthetic and political grounds, it was sold to a committee of German-Americans in 1893 and dedicated at what was then Grand Concourse Plaza on July 9, 1899.  More information about the Heinrich Heine Fountain

Fountain of Life

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx

Photo courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

Two cherubic-like figures struggle with equine sea creatures in this 200-year-old fountain. In a basin below the battling creatures, a mermaid and merman flee. The fountain’s sculptor, Maine native Charles E. Tefft (1874-1951), was a student and professor at the then newly-opened Artist-Artisan Institute—established by John Ward Stimson, former Director of Art Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stimson created the school because he believed America lacked its own artistic beauty of manufactured arts and industrial decoration. More information about the Fountain of Life.

Bowling Green Fountain

Bowling Green Park, Manhattan

Photo by Jenny Lyubomudrova courtesy of NYC Parks Arts and Antiquities

Even though the park is NYC’s first park, dating back to 1733, the fountain in the park today was added about two centuries later. There were two fountains here before but several reconstructions, including the construction of the IRT subway (now MTA) and preparations for the 1939 World’s Fair, forced new renovations to the park. In a 1976-1977 capital renovation, the park was restored to its 18th-century appearance, and publisher and philanthropist George Delacorte donated the park’s central fountain. More information about Bowling Green Fountain

Columbus Circle

Central Park, Manhattan

Photo by Sara Cedar Miller, courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

At Columbus Circle, one of the world’s most famous roundabouts, a 13-foot tall figure of Christopher Columbus stands atop a 35-foot column overlooking Central Park West, and an allegorical figure depicting the Genius of Discovery stands on the base. The base of the monument is surrounded by fountains designed by Douglas Leigh, who was inspired by water displays in Rome.  The fountains were a gift from the Delacorte Foundation and were dedicated on Columbus Day, October 12, 1965. More information about Columbus Circle

Triumph of the Human Spirit

Thomas Paine Park/Foley Square, Manhattan

Photo by Jake Rajs, courtesy of NYC Parks Arts and Antiquities

This circular fountain contains a striking 50-foot-tall abstract granite sculpture, which was commissioned as the centerpiece for Foley Square, near where about 10,000 slaves were interred at a graveyard up until 1794. The sculpture is inspired by antelope headdresses of the Bamana people of Mali, and sits in an elongated boat-like structure that symbolizes canoes used by Native Americans, as well as the “middle passage”—the journey of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. The granite base contains a replica of the inherited lock and key used to enslave the artist’s great-great grandfather Steve Pace. More information about the Triumph of the Human Spirit

Rockefeller Fountain

Bronx Park/Bronx Zoo, Bronx

Photo by Marcial Fernandez, courtesy of NYC Parks Arts and Antiquities

This fountain, cast in 1872, first stood in a tourist area in Como, Italy. But after much criticism for its nude figures, worries about the effects on the city’s water supply, and a financial crisis, the fountain was put on sale for 3,500 lira (about $637 then). In 1902, William Rockefeller purchased the fountain and invested an additional $25,000 to bring it to New York City, where it was installed at the Bronx Zoo in 1903. In 1968 it was designated an official New York City landmark.  More information about the Rockefeller Fountain

Pulitzer Fountain

Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

Only steps from Central Park’s southeast end, the Pulitzer Fountain stands among the callery pear trees that bloom every spring. The 22-foot-tall fountain features a bronze allegorical figure of Pomona, the goddess of abundance, who is seen holding a basket of fruit. It was donated by publisher Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), for whom the Pulitzer Prize is named. More information about the Pulitzer Fountain

Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain

Bryant Park, Manhattan

Photo by Daniel Avila

In the winter, if you want to know just how cold New York City is, come to Bryant Park and check out the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain. It is a sight to see year-round, but especially once frozen! The fountain has a 32-foot wide lower basin and a 13-foot wide upper basin. It honors Josephine Shaw Lowell (1843-1905), who established the New York Consumers League, was the first member of the New York State Board of Charities, and was a well-known advocate for Progressive reform. The Memorial Committee wanted the fountain placed in Corlears Hook Park where Shaw focused her energies, instead the fountain was installed in Bryant Park in 1913. More information about the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain

Untermeyer Fountain

Central Park, Manhattan

This fountain in the Conservatory Garden’s North Garden is perhaps the most iconic of the garden’s three fountains. It is admired for its playful depiction of three dancing girls against the backdrop of the gardens blooming flowers. The sculpture is a cast of the original; it was donated to the park from Samuel Untermeyer’s estate. Untermeyer (1858-1940) was a well-known American lawyer and civic leader who focused on corporate law, income tax laws, and labor relations. More information about the Untermeyer Fountain

Burnett Memorial Fountain

Central Park, Manhattan

Photo by Sara Cedar Miller, courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

This fountain in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden honors “The Secret Garden” (1910) author Eliza Hodgson Burnett (1849 – 1924). The bronze statue, of a girl holding a bowl and a boy playing a flute beside her, is based on the book’s main characters Mary and Dickon. The fountain was sculpted by acclaimed sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh and was completed just in time for the garden’s official opening in the fall of 1937. More information about the Burnett Memorial Fountain

Fountain of the Dolphins

South Beach, Staten Island

The Fountain of The Dolphins playfully graces the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach in Staten Island. The fountain was donated to the park from the Staten Island Borough Office in 1998 and honors former Deputy Borough President James P. Molinaro for his efforts in restoring South Beach. It contains six bronze dolphin figures, wave-shaped rails, and water jets that light up with green, blue and white lights at night. More information about the Fountain of the Dolphins

Macombs Dam Fountain

Macombs Dam Park, Bronx

Photo by Jonathan Kuhn

After the construction of the Macombs Dam Bridge and 155th Street Viaduct at the end of the nineteenth century, marshland on the Bronx side of the Harlem River was filled in order to formthe Macombs Dam Park. The Macombs Dam Fountain was originally located in this park at Jerome Avenue and 162nd Street. Dedicated in 1908, the fountain was designed by Marin Schenck and Arthur G. Waldreaon with a large front basin, decorative waterspouts, and a small rear drinking fountain. Around 1930, Macombs Dam Park was reconfigured due to the construction of a new approach to the Macombs Dam Bridge, and the fountain was moved to the center of the new triangular-shaped park. More information about the Macombs Dam Fountain

Other Notable NYC Fountains

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